After all the positive comments I received from my last article on Bruce- where I discussed how many of us male Tramps love women who love The Boss, I figured I should make a list of songs Bruce sings that echo all of “these romantic thoughts in my head.” Romantic hearts bleed with passion and urgency- the same two words you could use to describe Springsteen’s songwriting and performances. So, in honor of David Letterman’s recent late night TV farewell, here’s “the top 10" romantic songs sung by Bruce Springsteen.
#10 Crush on You
Romance isn’t all ballads, white tablecloths and flowers- sometimes, it’s just a simple thought that begins in the heart. And there’s nothing simpler than, Crush on You, a 3-minute, catchy pop tune that expresses an innocent crush. Bruce once called this River track one of the weakest songs he ever wrote, but for pure fun and light romance- it’s a winner.
#9 Linda Let Me Be The One
Another track that does not get a lot of respect or play was actually set to be included on the seminal Born to Run album. Manager Mike Appel unabashingly chastised Bruce, at the time, for even considering it for the album that was already ripe with more meaningful tracks. While Appel was right to insist it not be included on that album, the eventual Tracks single, begs for romance with soul and pop. Bruce masterfully sings “Linda let me be the one” with a desperate passion that asks only for a chance- a chance at love. And that sentiment is about as deep and meaningful as it gets.
#8 Then She Kissed Me
Bruce has been singing the rearranged Crystals version of this song for decades. And every time I hear him do it, I can’t believe he was not the original composer. While the original song, “Then He Kissed Me” is sung from the female point of view- Bruce injected the other side of the coin. Knowing that men think and care about that first kiss nearly as much as women do is pretty significant, which is why it’s on this list.
The other song from this era Bruce adopted was Jackie DeShannon’s When You Walk in the Room and it deserves a co-starring spot here. Every man can recall what it’s like to watch a woman he already knows or has been waiting on to walk into a room and fall in love with with her all over again as soon as she appears.
#7 Pretty Flamingo
Yet another song Bruce adopted and made his own is Pretty Flamingo, written by Mark Barkan and recorded in 1966 by Manfred Mann, who ironically would later take one of Bruce’s songs, Blinded by the Light, and turn it into a #1 hit. Mann’s Pretty Flamingo did reach #1 in the UK in ‘66, but it’s Springsteen’s version that includes various extended on-stage wraps by Bruce about a girl in his neighborhood all the guys sat around talking about and looking for the courage to approach, that fully captures the spirited romance of this song.
#6 I’ll Work For Your Love
It’s quite clear, an older, more mature Bruce wrote I’ll Work For Your Love, released in 2007 on Magic. The singer acknowledges that love is not easy, and he’s willing to work for it. He doesn’t take his admiration (Theresa) for granted and understands his love is to be earned- and like many of us still making the extra effort, hopes she appreciates it.
#5 Tougher Than The Rest
Many of the un-enlightened look to the title track as the romantic song of the Tunnel of Love album. It is not. That song is about the struggles and perils of love. This song, Tougher Than The Rest, is a spirited declaration of one man’s confidence and resolve to love a woman in the way she wants. There is no else you will find who’s better than me- for I am “tougher than the rest.” When Bruce sings it alongside Patti in concert, the bold spirit of the song empowers every man who hears it, and simultaneously, warms every woman’s heart.
Originally written by Bruce for Elvis Presley in 1977, the Pointer Sisters ended up recording a version that peaked at #2 on the charts in 1978. Bruce’s version emits pure passion and testostrone sprinkled with tenderness. Robin Williams performed a version as “Elmer Fudd” which may not be quite as romantic, but certainly still got the point across. The romantic fire burns so strongly in Bruce’s heart, he wrote another song centered around the flaming heat a few years later- I’m on Fire.
#3 Sandy (4th of July, Asbury Park)
A romantic fondness for nights at the Jersey shore with your girl and dreams of a brighter future together- even if it’s a temporary one. Sandy was a favorite of Danny Federici’s and a favorite of everyone else who dares to dream. From the opening note to the last, this one’s beautifully wrapped with a gentle kiss from Cupid.
“Love me tonight, and I’ll promise I’ll love you forever.”
#2 Drive All Night
If you don’t feel the hair on your neck rise up during this song in concert, I suggest you visit a heart specialist- because you don’t have one.
“I’d drive all night just to buy you some shoes and to taste your tender charms.”
If that was the only line in the song that would be enough.
#1 Thunder Road
Described by Bruce during his VH1 ‘Storytellers” TV appearance as his “inviation” to his audience- it’s real impact is so much more than that. It is, quite frankly, the greatest rock and roll love song ever written. Thunder Road is about life, love and the dream.
Bruce has sung many different versions of this song, from solo acoustic, to piano to pure rock and roll- all are exceptional.
“What else can we do now? Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
Well the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven’s waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh Thunder Road oh Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it’s late we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road sit tight, take hold
Back in Your Arms
Love the way Bruce sings this — so sincere- but this song is more about needing a second chance after screwing up, so for that reason alone, I left it off- but nevertheless, it’s a magical song.
Because the Night
Bruce never could finish the song, so he gave it to Patti Smith who turned into her personal love letter to her husband and she made it a hit. To this day, Bruce will tell you he’s singing Patti’s song- not his, and for that reason, it doesn’t make the cut here.
A “lovely song” that was suppose to be on The River album- and speaks to a summer romance filled with magic and fireflies- even hearing it in a stadium you can still “walk softly tonight…you make all my dream worlds come true.”
Girls in their Summer Clothes
An ode to all the pretty girls who “pass me by”- beautifully composed, yet delightfully frustrating- while the idea of “getting” one of these is girls is romantic- the song is about not getting them- the singer admires and hopes to get one, one day. But today is not that day and so it doesn’t make the cut.
I Wanna’ Marry You
I guess it’s hard to argue against a song about wanting to marry to be left out of the top 10- and I don’t have any good reason, except that the chase is no longer there of trying to find love- which if you look at all these songs that did make the top 10, it’s all about seeking love- not capturing it.
Granted this is a Tom Waits song, but anyone from Jersey thinks of it as Bruce’s- I am originally from Jersey and nothing seems more romantic than finding myself a Jersey girl- but it did not make the top 10 because of it’s specificity- it’s one helluva’ romantic song to women from Jersey, but if you’re from Spain or California- not sure it’s got the same impact.
I’m Going Down
No explanation necessary — except it’s about a certain kind of love that drives me inside out- and knocks me down.
I Wanna’ Be With You
A rocking track that never made the cut for a studio album and rarely gets played live, but when it does, there’s never a doubt what the singer wants- he wants you.
The opening line is: “I had a dream our love would last forever.” This song deserves to be in the top 10- and I have no good reason why it’s not.